The First Days of Operation LAPIS, Part 1

Operation LAPIS has launched at the Norwich Free Academy with great fanfare; at least in my mind, anyway.  I want to spend a little bit of time to put down my thoughts from the first few days about what transpired, what worked and what could be improved for version 2.0 next year.

The first day of school is a shortened day in which every class only meets for thirty minutes.  Thirty minutes is not a lot of time to explain to a room of mostly freshman, in their first day at an enormous school, that what they will be doing in Latin this year is going to be completely different from anything they have done previously in any academic setting.  At our stage of development (both of LAPIS and of practomime in general) one of the biggest challenges we face is still explaining, in a concise manner, just what exactly we are doing.  The question of how to go about this task preoccupied my mind the weekend and first part of the week leading up to Wednesday.

What I ultimately decided was to move at (what I would consider) a very slow pace as I introduced the various components over the first three days.  After letting them know that they would be doing something that hasn’t ever been done in a high school course before, I (at the very least) had their attention for the remainder of the short class.  We spent some time talking about the idea of ‘practomime’ and I tried to help them wrap their minds around the ‘role-playing’ aspect of the course.  My goal was to try to explain everything in a way that didn’t use other comparisons as a crutch (i.e., the Matrix thing).  In the end, using examples from popular culture proved to be more useful that I had originally thought it would be, and after making the loose connection of TSTT = the Matrix, conceptually we could move forward.

Throughout the entire class, part of me was a little terrified internally because of the looks on the student’s faces.  I could see it in their eyes that they were all thinking to themselves, “Holy cow, this guy is completely insane.”  Which, in all honesty, is to be expected given the drastic departure from “business as usual” that we are hoping to achieve with LAPIS.  Their homework for the first evening was simple: use the visual guide that I handed to them to create a new Google Account and to make first contact with the Demiurge (me) by sending a simple email that read “Awaiting further instructions.”

I had no idea what to expect.  I had no idea if half the class was going to run in a panic to try and get switched out of the course.  I couldn’t get a good reading from them at the end of the first thirty minutes.  I later found out that day that one of the students was in such a pensive state about the whole concept of LAPIS that they went to the wrong class the following period and sat through the whole thing before realized that they were in the wrong place.  While I feel bad about that, it reaffirmed that I had done something right in the presentation of the first steps.  If anything, it was a compelling enough start to have them momentarily lose themselves in the idea of Operation LAPIS.

After the day finished and the students boarded their buses, I enjoyed a fun lunch upstairs in the lounge with some of my colleagues, laughing and joking about the first day back.  Little did I know that while I had been eating my turkey sandwich, a half-dozen LAPIS ‘Recruits’ had rushed home and done the steps necessary to start the process of becoming full blown ‘Operatives’.  By the time I had finished my hour long drive back home, another half-dozen had done the same.  At the end of the evening, 21* out of the 22 students in the class had followed the instructions perfectly and created their accounts.  The majority of them waited for the followup email and performed those challenges as well (registering with the forums, viewing their first CARD, etc).  The first student to finish all the challenges was awarded a special title, ‘Celerrima’ (‘the quickest’), which will display by their name every time they post.

Day 1, by my reckoning, was a complete success and set up perfectly a productive second day.  I’ll go into the details of that in a post later this weekend.  Stay tuned for more.

*I talked to the 22nd student before class started on the second day.  He gave the standard student excuse for not doing a computer-based assignment that I’ve become accustomed to hearing: “Oh, my computer is like broken or something.”  I explained to him everything we are doing outside of class required that he have access to a computer and that if he couldn’t get his computer fixed, we’d have to see about moving him to a different section of Latin I.  By 2:30pm that day (school ends at 2:15), he had taken the steps required to move ahead.

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